And you thought this whole story couldn’t get more bizarre. According to “Penn In Ink,” a collection of essays about the University of Pennsylvania by author Samuel Hughes, Sabrina Erdely (Sabrina Rubin at the time) got busted by her editor at the UPenn newspaper for submitting a story that she had completely made up. Who was the editor who disciplined her? Stephen Glass. Yes, that Stephen Glass:
Sabrina Rubin, who says she and the rest of the editorial board “adored” [Stephen Glass], puts it another way: “There are reporters who get ahead because they’re great schmoozers, and I think Steve was definitely one of them.” When he became the paper’s executive editor, the editorial board hailed him as a “man of principle,” and in her Philadelphia Magazine piece, Rubin describes how Glass threw a righteous fit when she and a colleague concocted a funny and obviously made-up travel story for 34th Street–going so far as to call an emergency session of the [Daily Pennsylvanian’s] Alumni Association board to apprise them of the transgression.
Truth is apparently stranger than fiction. The story here is even more interesting in light of not only the rapidly unraveling UVA story Erdely wrote for Rolling Stone (yes, there’s yet another new story contradicting Erdely’s piece), but also in light of two stories Erdely wrote for Philadelphia Magazine years ago. Both make generous use of pseudonyms, and both lack any facts that can be independently verified.
One of them, entitled “Main Line Madam,” purports to tell the story of “Erica,” a high-class Philadelphia prostitute who is also a devout Catholic who attends church twice each week and doesn’t understand why the church views prostitution as immoral.
Mollie Hemingway detailed the large number of highly unlikely quotes and storylines in that piece last week.
You can’t make this stuff up, but if you can, you might want to send your resume to Rolling Stone.
[UPDATE: An e-mail tipster in a position to know tells me that the Rubin/Erdely story that attracted the ire of Stephen Glass was very obviously made-up and that the small publication for which it was intended — 34th Street — was at the time a natural home for that kind of tongue-in-cheek content. That said, without having seen the actual article in question, it’s hard to know. If and when we’re able to obtain a copy of the article, we’ll be sure to include it here so you can read it and judge for yourself.]